Among the first marquee chef-champions of seasonality, Alice Waters hails from culinary roots are international. Following a lifelong passion for food and agriculture, she graduated from the University of California in 1967 with a degree in French Cultural Studies. Waters then trained at the Montessori School in London, followed by a seminal year traveling in France.
Her appreciation for classical French technique, coupled with a passion for fresh, local produce, gave birth to her signature style—and her pivotal impact on the landscape of American cuisine as we know it. Waters opened her flagship restaurant, Chez Panisse, in 1971. The Berkeley restaurant featured a five-course, fixed-price menu that changed daily. To this day, the set menu format remains at the heart of Waters’ philosophy of serving the highest quality products according to the season.
Over two decades, she has discovered and encouraged a network of farmers and ranchers who now ensure Chez Panisse has a steady supply of pure and fresh ingredients, almost all organically grown. Her upstairs cafe opened in 1980, and features an a la carte menu, an open kitchen, and a wood-burning pizza oven. In 1984, Cafe Fanny, named for her daughter, opened a few miles from the restaurant, another outpost for Waters’ iconic style.
Over the years Waters has garnered countless awards and accolades, including a James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef and Best Restaurant as well as a lifetime achievement awards from Bon Appetit and The Ritz-Carlton Corporation. Waters is also a nationally recognized and prized humanitarian, with projects like the 1996 creation of the Edible Schoolyard and eco-gastronomic curriculum at Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, as well as her ongoing involvement with the Horticulture Project at the San Francisco County Jail. Vice president of Slow Food International and prolific author, Waters has proven that substantive social change is possible within the kitchen, and far, far beyond it.